Now’s the time of year when everyone’s compiling “best of” lists—mostly made up of bestsellers and the usual suspects. Listen, we loved Gone Girl too, but if you are looking for a literary gift from the road less traveled, consider Jack Gilbert‘s Collected Poems.
Published in March of this year, the book includes 50 years worth of strikingly beautiful poetry that’s accessible and can be read, reread, and absorbed on many levels.
Gilbert, who died in November at the age of 87, wrote with extraordinary emotional acuity about everything from growing up in Pittsburgh to mourning the death of his wife. In one of his later poems, “A Brief for the Defense,” he acknowledges the world’s sorrows, yet asserts:
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world.
A brilliant gift indeed.